“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn
Taking a shower during treks is out of the question. Then how do you maintain hygiene standards? What about your greasy hair and the general filthy feeling? And won’t everyone stink by day 3? How can you stay clean and fresh on multiple day trekking?
Trekking and scaling mountains or camping out on a campground for a few days always sounds like a great idea for outdoor junkies – enjoying nature, disconnecting from technology, communing with our roots, enjoying quality time with loved ones, and sitting around the campsite grounds having fun. But the thought of going multiple days without a shower is really daunting.
Usually while trekking, showers are not available at most campsites. Most have no water sources even. Water supply has been one of the challenges for trekkers, need not say hygiene.
For some trekking destinations, there are abundant water sources. You may get an opportunity to take a bath in a stream or a lake but do it only without the application of soap or shampoo as you do not want to contaminate the water. People drink the same water. In fact, when you’re trekking, even you drink the same water.
I am no expert about trekking and hygiene stuffs but with my experiences during multiple instances of me staying in the mountains, I came up with this basic tips to stay clean and fresh.
You can follow some basic tweaks to stay clean and fresh when on multiple day trekking:
1. What’s the best replacement to taking a bath when in campsites with no water supply?
Wet wipes or biodegradable soap will ensure body cleanliness. You can wipe yourselves with a damp tissue, especially the sweaty areas such as the underarms/armpits, etc. before changing into fresh clothes. But take note that wet wipes are not biodegradable. So if you can’t dispose it properly, it is better to use the usual scent-free tissue papers or a soft handkerchief.
If there is a lake or stream along your trail or near your campsite, take a bath in nature. Just rinsing off in fresh water will remove excess dirt and oils. When coming across a cold and clear creek, strip down to undergarments and lie in the water to cool off the body and clean out closed areas such as the underarms. Wetting your hair will dispose of the grease that forms from the scalp.
2. Allow your feet to breathe
Remove shoes and socks at least once a day to allow your feet to breathe. Keeping your shoes on could cause a foot fungus known as “athlete’s foot” to blaze. This could occur due to feet being in a warm and moist area for a long period of time. Changing your socks every day or as necessary is also a way to avoid this.
3. Bring enough clothes
How many fresh clothes will you need? Pack at least two sets of outfits to alternate in days. By having two outfits, you can wash one with extra water (or water from a nearby source) and hang it up to dry at night. Even if you don’t have access to water, you should hang it up to air out through the night.
4. Choose the right clothes
Wear synthetic-material clothing that wicks moisture. Remember that bacteria thrive in moist conditions. Avoid cotton clothes as much as possible that may soak up the sweat and opt for wicking clothes instead. Dri-fit clothes can be used. And also, bringing enough clean underwear and feminine wipes for women will decrease the possibility of private infections.
5. Is bad breath the greatest enemy to overall travel freshness?
Maintaining dental hygiene while camping/trekking is comforting and healthful. Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss, also remember to avoid brushing teeth and bathing within 200 feet of a water source or your campsite. You may be a welcome guest, but it is ultimately nature’s home, and it’d be terribly rude to contaminate it. Also, in the absence of these materials mention above, using mouthwash will kill bacteria that is grown in the mouth when not brushing for long periods of time.
6. Observe proper hand sanitation
Use hand sanitizer after every bathroom breaks, before grabbing a handful of trail mix; as well as before cooking and eating. One important way to protect yourself is by keeping your hands clean. Make a point to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket and use it frequently. This practice slashes down on the prospects of ingesting bacteria that can make you sick which is doubly unpleasant experience when on the trail.
7. Carry a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol and some cotton balls.
Soak the cotton with the alcohol and give yourself a rub down at night under the arms, feet and groin area. You’ll be amazed at how dirty the cotton becomes – yes, that all came off you – and how much better you feel afterwards. A light weight to carry with big benefits.
8. Relieve yourself in a clean way
Use biodegradable toilet paper when nature calls. Using leaves and other natural materials could cause serious infections or diseases. Using biodegradable toilet paper is best. To keep odor away, the biodegradable toilet paper needs to be buried after use. Remember to pack out, what you packed in. Leaving toilet paper at the campsite is totally unacceptable.
9. If greasy hair bums you out, try using an unscented dry shampoo (you should use the unscented one to avoid those bugs), or work some baby powder into your hair roots to expurgate the grease.
10. Always carry a small container of body lotion or muscle rub and use it on your feet at night after cleaning.
Try to sleep with fresh clothes other than what you hiked in, and hang those hiking clothes to air when possible. If your campsite is near water sources, rinse them out when you can. Please note that washing should be done away from water sources.
What you can do most easily on a trek whether just a day trek or multiple days, is maintain basic hygiene. Brush your hair, wash your face, answer nature’s call and clean up. There might be water available at all campsites to brush and wash up. As for your toothpaste and soap, try your best to take toiletries without chemicals in them as organic products will decompose more easily. Refrain also from using deodorant, perfume, hairspray, shampoo, and any other scented and environmentally-unfriendly materials. Cosmetics and perfumes attract animals like bears and bugs – so leave those things at home.
Have you been to multiple day treks? Or you’re on a trek that you once feel unhygienic? What have you done to work around with it? Or you just let it be? Leave your thoughts on the comment box below.